Worlds of Confusion (part 1)
Location: Shady Side - Melissa's room
Timeline: August 20, 2010
The open window let in more heat than breeze, and just enough of the latter to be annoying. The air conditioning, much to her delight, was broken. Dad had promised to get it working again, but the repair guys, apparently, were taking their sweet time dealing with the failure of everyone ELSE’S systems before getting to the Wilson house.
Downstairs, Melissa could hear her mother loudly protesting, in her thickly accented voice, that her father hadn’t done enough to make them come quickly. Sweeten the pot! Give them a bonus! Slip them a twenty! Mother failed to realize that, when calling people over the phone, it wasn’t exactly the wisest plan to try to bribe them to come to your house first. Piss people off enough, and they’ll make you feel it.
Melissa sighed, closing her yearbook and turning away from the face of the boy she’d had a decent chance with. A decent chance she’d completely blown, having treated him poorly enough to make him run away after confessing he loved her. Of course, he'd shown that love with violence against someone else she cared deeply about... but no one was perfect. Jeff had refused to speak to her since the end of school, and while she couldn't deny that she felt something for Tim - Ankhrameses - she had decided that taking the summer to think about how to deal with that was a good plan. He'd understood.
The breeze blew a stray sheet of notepaper with a hastily sketched map off her desk, and Melissa muttered a Greek curse under her breath. She bent down to pick it up, looking back at her computer screen as she did so. Even Ankhrameses wasn’t online today. Summer, for all that time off from school meant freedom, was an incredibly horrible time to feign a social life in an online game. No one was ever online, because everyone had families to spend time with, beaches to visit, cottages without internet to go to (a fate she barely wanted to contemplate!), or worse, camping trips without power of any sort! She shuddered at the thought, and thanked whatever gods may or may not exist, in game or out of it, that she’d been able to talk her sister out of making her join her on a camping trip with her stupid, vapid university student friends.
Worlds of Myth, even without anyone she knew online, was better than the usual summer alternatives. Even if it was a bit lonely.
With a small sigh, Melissa placed her hands back on the keyboard, throwing herself into Neferu’s world. The Egyptian assassin would help her get past all of that. She always did. With deft fingers, Neferu strolled down the Athenian street, moving toward the next quest marker. Time for a new challenge.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," the words came from her closet, the voice soft and seeming to slide across her skin like the brush of fingers, "The Mummy Queen is virtually immune to piercing damage, I'd switch to a blunt weapon if I were you."
“Gaah!” Melissa jumped, turning quickly. By instinct, her fingers twitched just enough in the process for Neferu to pull out her twin sickle-bladed daggers on the screen, crouching into a defensive position in the process. “Kyle?”
"He wishes," the voice said with a snort, "block, she's about to try to hit you with mummy rot."
“Who the... crap!” Melissa exclaimed, turning back to the game just in time to see the large, well-hitpoint-endowed Mummy Queen slash a bandaged claw across Neferu’s arm. Her fingers found the correct keys on the keyboard with instinctive ease, backing her away from the fight just enough to let her launch in to one of her best special moves. Spiralling twin blades of doom spun at the Mummy Queen while Neferu did something that seemed like a mix between a cartwheel and a flip. It struck her for a significant number of hit points, but Neferu had been hit worse. Mummy rot coursed through her health bar, the greenish black tint to her health nefarious for more than just the amount of gold it would take to cure it.
"Told you so," the voice said with a laugh that managed to sound both smug and comiserating, "Have any fire flasks? Fire burst stuns her for 3 seconds."
“Yeah, I...” Melissa frowned, focusing on the game as she dived through her inventory. “Scroll of flame... fireball... flame hands... crap, no. Used the fire flask last night, forgot to stock up. Damn it.” She chose the fireball. Neferu’s hands reached out in front of her, quickly forming a ball of flame between them that she thrust forward toward the mummy. The bandages on her arm caught fire, but she wasn’t stunned.
Neferu quickly vanished from the screen in a cloud of grey smoke, appearing behind the mummy for a quick series of backstabs, which took down her health bar a little farther, but not before the Mummy Queen got in a few shots of her own. The mummy taint was taking Neferu’s health down faster than the Mummy Queen’s, and Melissa’s brow furrowed as she concentrated on taking down the linen-wrapped pain in the ass.
"Undear, she's immune to backstab," the voice coached.
“Why didn’t you say so before?” She grumbled.
"I didn't think you'd try that, you're damn good at this game I thought you'd know. Ice and electricity won't do much to her, without a fire flask maybe see if you have anything with acid that will do DOTs? She's not weak to it but shouldn't be resistant either. That might be eough for you to retreat and pop a potion," though he'd sounded smug before, he was actually being quite helpful, if a little annoying.
“Acid...” Melissa muttered under her breath, digging through her inventory again. Though she hated, on principle if nothing else, to swap out her sickle blades, she did have the Mace of Anguish that provided 72 acid damage. Couldn’t hurt. Adding in to that a poison coating and an acid bomb, it was worth a shot. The way that she was bleeding hit points to the taint, anything was worth trying.
The mace flashed in the digital sunlight, crashing down upon the bandaged beast’s crowned head. It stunned her, and the Mummy Queen staggered back. Acid splashed against her chest from the bomb Neferu threw, and the Mummy Queen screamed in anguish. The barrage took down an impressive chunk of her hit points! Apparently the voice in her closet knew what it was talking about.
...and that was something she’d never admit thinking to anyone, anywhere, ever. It’d be enough to lock her up. Amongst everything else, hearing voices in her closet!
In her distraction, the Mummy Queen got in another few good hits. Neferu’s hit points dropped. One more good hit would do it.
“Damn it.” Melissa muttered, throwing another acid bomb.
"You've got this, dig deep what else do you have to work with?" the voice asked, "Kill her with this next hit you'll have enough pots and HP to get back to town and buy off that curse."
“I can probably get to Iaso in time.” Melissa mumbled, regarding removing the mummy’s taint. She frowned, opening her inventory screen again. She didn’t know how she hadn’t seen it before! With a smile on her lips and a steely glint in her bespectacled eyes, Melissa watched Neferu’s hands ignite as they grabbed the Mummy Queen’s head. The linen bandages played with the flame as they licked at the screaming undead queen’s face, and green acid dripped down from her flaming hands on to the mummy’s shambling corpse. She twiched, screamed, and, with a twist of Neferu’s hands, lay headless on the cobblestones.
“YES!” Melissa shouted excitedly, quickly looting the body for extra GP and treasures before using a rare teleport scroll to get her back to the hospital in Athens. “Though, I have no idea what a Mummy Queen was doing in Athens... I guess the designers are getting lazy.”
She spoke half to herself as much as anything, only then remembering the other voice in the room.
"Nah," the voice said with a laugh, "Melvin just has a bondage fetish that he won't even admit to himself and likes girls that are all tied up in bandages. At least that's what Aphrodite tells me."
“That’s... wha... who??” Melissa blinked, turning around.
That’s when she fell off her chair.
Looking out at her from her closet, buried half under a pile of dirty clothes and with a bra falling in an entirely undignified manner half over the screen, was a very old, very large CRT monitor. She wasn’t entirely sure why she even kept the thing, other than that it was the only screen in the entire house that would hook up to her old NES and let her play Duck Hunt. Retro gaming was a guilty pleasure.
But, that wasn’t the shocking part. Despite there being no source of power whatsoever in her closet, the screen was on - and not just on, but displaying a man that looked strangely familiar - and yet, unlike anyone she’d ever met before.
Sitting in a room that looked like it came out of some classy home from the 1920s and should have been filled with men in smoking jackets discussing literature and brandy over one of the books upon the shelves in the background, the man relaxed in a lounge chair, the picture of sophisticated idleness. Both feet stretched out upon an upholstered footrest, with his hands resting casually upon his seemingly slender stomach. Like the room, he wasn’t exactly modern, dressed in clothing that looked like it belonged on some poncy nobleman from Jane Austin or some other equivalent romantic era novelist - or at worst, some trashy fantasy romance book’s front cover. His white shirt was loose, with unfastened buttons at the collar displaying a well-muscled set of pectoral muscles, paired with black trousers and black boots that came up over his knees with shining golden buckles. As though to complete the look, blue eyes shone past shoulder-length blonde waves, a chiselled jaw and unrealistically stunning good looks.
Familiarly unrealistically stunning good looks. She squinted.
“A... Ad...onis?” She blinked some more. Ok, that was it. No more all-nighters playing Worlds of Myth and eating chocolate bars. She shook her head and wondered when her sanity had gone away. She silently bet that, if she pinched herself hard enough, she’d find herself in her bed and realize that she’d never actually woken up from that nap she’d had around noon.
"In the flesh... or rather in the monitor," the god said with a smirk, "They did a pretty good job capturing my essence but I'm a bit miffed at my intelligence score. Would you mind turning off your monitor up there so I can see you better? There seems to be something half blocking my view from down here." Though he was tactful enough not to point out that it was one of her bras blocking his view, she thought she could detect a tiny twinkle in his eyes.
Melissa's cheeks flushed a very bright shade of red as she quickly jumped up from the floor, turned off her monitor and, moving at a surprisingly quick pace, cleared away the clothes from the screen in her closet. "Wh-what... um... a-are you... I-I mean... why... m-my closet..." She stammered nervously. "A-and... how..." Great... not only am I delusional, now I'm talking to my delusions. I wonder if Kyle put anything into those cookies he made... that has to be it...
The image of Adonis flickered then died on the old monitor, but her new one lit back up with a flash showing the same scene only the graphics were better. The god had sat up and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and steepling his fingers as he looked at her intently, "That old CRT was the only reflective surface where I could see your screen. I didn't want to get you killed by popping in at a bad moment." He knew that didn't actually answer her question but a god had to have his fun somehow and the long version would be required to explain why he was there.
“Uh...n-no... of course not...” Melissa’s eyes remained wide and locked on the screen as she reached out for her rolling desk chair, sliding in to it carefully. “That would be... err... rude... I guess...” At least my delusions are considerate. She mused.
"Quite," Adonis said with a soft chuckle, "And by your blank expression and complete confusion I am going to assume it hasn't happened yet has it? You want to go splash yourself with cold water? Pinch yourself? Something so you can assure yourself you're not dreaming?"
Like that would even help. What the hell did Kyle put in those cookies?? Melissa thought to herself. “Uhh... happened?”
"And that answers that," Adonis said with a sigh, "Okay let's start with the basics, first a few questions. I assume you've seen enough of the media to know what a mutant is? What causes mutation and how diverse and varied the abilities of these individuals can be?"
Melissa blinked again, her eyes widening. There was a long pause before she spoke. “M...mutants? I... yes... but, why...? I don’t know any mutants, they’re... well... we don’t... I mean, Shady Side isn’t that kind of place.”
"They aren't as bad as all that, in fact most carriers of the mutant gene will go their whole lives without ever awakening. You will not," again that sly look entered his cornflower blue eyes, that twinkle that said he knew just how important what he said was.
“Will not what?” Melissa’s eyes narrowed. She wasn’t sure she liked where this was going. Why was it that even the voices in her head could be mean at times?
"Go your whole life without awakening," Adonis could play word games with the best of them, he could be mysterious and damn annoying if he wanted to be, but this meeting hadn't gone as planned. The word had gone out to all the gods that anyone who had received power from their god-touched needed to reach out and speak with their charges. Adonis had been getting small bits of power for a few months and so assumed that Melissa had awakened, at least partially. But she seemed to be unaware of it.
He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, pushing it back from his face. The gesture didn't make him any less good looking but it exposed the angles of his cheekbones and brow and made him seem more human and less godly. "Okay let's see if I can explain this, first I'm sorry I surprised you I thought you'd already been told. This is a lot to take in all at once. Let's backtrack for a second. So you've studied ancient mythology, and played enough Worlds of Myth, to know that there are hundreds of different pantheons with thousands of gods. Suppose that every one of those gods were real, real in that because they were once believed in they became a being that could do all those things the myths said. But then suppose people stopped believing in you, stopped worshiping you? That the power which created you wains, eventually the god dies. With me so far?"
“Uh... sure... I guess so.” Melissa said tentatively.
"So as you know a small part of the population of humanity is born with what's known as an x-gene, the potential to become a mutant. A small portion of that group will awaken and have abilities. Of the ones that awaken an even smaller portion will have extraordinary abilities because at the moment of their conception they were chosen by one of the old gods. They will awaken at some point in their lives it's just a matter of time. When they awaken, when they use their abilities they not only feed the god energy, but by using their powers in that gods name can renew people's faith in that god. For some it's a necessity, they have responsibilities that don't just go away when people stop believing in them, for others they are afraid of experiencing mortality, and still others want more power than others and wish to try to change their position in the pantheon. For me I simply did not want to die permanently, I've died a thousand deaths but if I faded I would never be reborn. So I chose you," Adonis watched her closely, no twinkle of mischief though his expression was guarded, carefully neutral.
“Heh.” Melissa huffed, rolling her eyes. “Bad choice.”
"No, I don't think it was," Adonis said with a sly smile.
“Even assuming what you say is true - which is questionable, given how much of whatever the hell Kyle must have put in to those cookies to be having THIS much of a hallucination right now - why, out of everyone on the entire planet, would *I* be someone who, first, you’d think would have powers of any sort, let alone mutant ones?” Melissa shook her head. “I’m no one. I live in Shady Side, which, if you’d ever actually been here outside of a computer monitor - which, okay, I have to admit is kind of cool. Well done, imagination! - you’d know this place is nowhere important. It’s a tiny little place you could barely even call a town, where nothing ever happens and I bet less than a thousand people in the entire country could even point out on a map. I’m even less important than that. I can barely string together two words most of the time when I’m talking to people, and the only reason I can do it right now is because, well, I can talk to myself just fine. I am the LAST person in the entire WORLD some god should decide to choose in order to make himself better known or... I dunno, whatever it is you think I should be doing to make you not die forever or fade or... whatever it is you would otherwise do. Let alone Adonis.” She gave another huff of laughter. “Like the most handsome man ever, cursed to realize he was the most handsome man ever, would think I was even remotely worthy of... anything. Other than doing his homework or something. Do gods even get homework?”
"However much Athena would like to assign it, no, we don't get homework," Adonis said with a chuckle, he sat back sighing as he studied her, "Why I chose you is a question for another time, preferably a time when you don't think you are hallucinating. I want you to do something for me, please, can you take out your phone and take a video of you monitor? I will endeavour to come up with something witty for you to record. Then get some rest, and tomorrow watch the video. When you're ready to believe I'm real just make sure you are alone and place your palm flat against any reflective surface and speak my name, I'll hear your call."
Melissa gave him a strange look, but shrugged and went over to her nightstand to get her phone. “Okaaaay... I don’t know if it’s crazier that I’m humouring you, or that I’m hallucinating to begin with. I swear, I don’t do this sort of thing... and I’m going to kill Kyle for this later.” She raised the phone and started the video. “Stupid stoner brother...”
Adonis snorted, "Yeah, I never trust anything Dionysus gives me either. Alright now to come up with something witty and profound to say in case you think this needs to go on YouTube." He thought for a moment then smiled and looked right at the camera, "Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses."
Melissa arched an eyebrow. “Thanks, Ann Landers.” She snarked. “What does that have to do with, well, anything we were talking about? If this has to do with Jeff...”
"No, he's just a boy. It has to do with who and what I am," Adonis said in a gentle tone, "Right now you think I'm a figment of your imagination conjured from playing too much Worlds of Myth, tomorrow ask yourself this, would the Adonis in the game have quoted Ann Landers?" Then he sat back, his tone dry, "Could the Adonis in the game have read Ann Landers?"
“Well.... no.” She admitted. “I don’t think he would know how to read. But, I have a pretty good imagination.”
"You do, one of the reasons I like you so much," Adonis said with a chuckle that slithered over her skin like a caress, "Now, it's late and your night has been weird to say the least. Go to bed and call me in the morning when you believe I am real."
“Like that’s going to happen. Call you, how?” Melissa asked, glancing down at her phone.
Melissa stared at the blank monitor where Adonis had recently been. Her reflection stared back at her, with bags under her eyes and hair that looked like it hadn't been brushed in weeks. “Alright... that’s the last of Kyle’s cookies I ever eat.”